Despite its arguably sickening name, ringworm of the scalp (tinea corporis or capitis) is a fungal infection, not a physical intrusion by a parasitic worm. Generally, the type of ringworm infection is based on the type and size of the fungal spore responsible for the infection. Microsporosis is small spore ringworm; trichophytosis is large-spore ringworm.
While ringworm of the scalp is a common malady, another variety of tinea corporis, ringworm of the beard, is much rarer. Both conditions get their names from the appearance of the infection. In both cases, a circular bald patch shows up on the skin. The interior of the patch can heal as the infection spreads outward, creating the appearance of a raised ring [source: WebMD].
This isn't the only symptom or sign of a ringworm infection; bald patches can form in other ways as well. On dark-haired individuals, these patches often contain the appearance of black dots, which are actually the stubble that remains in areas where the hair has broken off just above the scalp. This is a symptom of black dot ringworm infection, where the fungi affect the actual hair. As the fungi penetrates the hair shaft and colonizes the hair follicle, it eventually eats through the hair, causing it to break off. The hair localized at the infected area may also be easily pulled out.
Ringworm infections can also present as red or gray scaly areas that can itch like the devil. Small, blister-like bumps can also present in the infected area. Part of the body's attempt to ward off the foreign invaders is the production of pus at the infected area. As a result, lesions filled with pus can form, causing both itching and pain [source: New York Times]. These lesions are called kerion and are actually an allergic reaction to the fungal attack [source: University of Michigan].
So what do you do when you find your child incessantly scratching at a red, scaly bald patch that's filled with tiny bumps? Read the next page to learn about treating ringworm of the scalp.